Though they may leave the world, they never leave your heart.
Saturday was the Chinese Lunar New Year, and we are now in the Year of the Rat. One of the Chinese traditions is to start the new year with a clean house, as this increases one’s chance of good luck in the coming year. Contrary to popular belief, I do clean house occasionally, last week being one such occasion, with a big push on Friday, with pizza as a reward (and a rather effective one!). I dusted, vacuumed, emptied waste baskets and schlepped the trash out to the dumpster, had both vacuums (upright and cannister) out, was up and down on the step stool to reach the high shelves and the top of the refrigerator, and washed everything I could get into the washer, including the “guest” towels in the main bathroom, all the lap robes, all the bath mats, and all my bedding. (I even rotated the mattress!) I bet I washed at least six big loads, the last load including the clothes I stood in. Then I had my bath, and sat down to my reward about 10 p.m., and crashed and burned (in a clean bed!) at about 12:30 a.m. Sunday I took it easy and played games on my tablet and read.
While I was doing my general cleaning and sorting out of the household, I hung mom in the bedroom — her picture, that is! Her church membership directory also includes family pictures of those members who wish to spring for it, and the photographers offer the option of additional copies of the photo in larger sizes (for a rather stiff additional fee!), and my mom opted for a couple of 5″ x 7″‘s, one of which she framed and gave me for Xmas. I put it on my dresser intending to hang it shortly thereafter and . . . oh, look! a squirrel. . . And there it sat until Friday. Hanging it under several pictures of her and my dad stirred sad memories, seeing her solo in a picture which would have included my dad, only he passed in 2014 at the age of 92.
You knew it would happen. Another shawl pattern. This time it’s a rectangular one in bulky yarn, on US13(9.00 mm) needles, which I’m calling “Mrs. Crocombe‘s Braided Delight” since a shawl worn by Kate Hipperson who plays Mrs. Crocombe for English Heritage inspired it. I’m pretty sure I don’t have enough of the blue yarn to do the whole shawl, so I will stripe it with white. A yarn with a nice drape would be good for this, like something blended with alpaca or merino, and now that I look at it, US15’s (10.0 mm) would probably be a better choice, but I don’t have any 15’s. The yarn I’m using is acrylic, so I’ll “kill” it when I block it so it will drape better. There will be a pattern published.
Both this blue and the white are old, old yarn that came out of what Angela of Must Love Yarn podcast fame refers to as “deep stash.” Both yarns have been knitted and frogged out at least once. (I’m picking out cat hair from cats more than 10 years gone — and still much missed! — not to mention my own hair!)
The shawl has a nice big braided cable detail, and cables are always fun. The cable is positioned asymmetrically, closer to one edge than to the center. I started the shawl on some Knitters Pride Dreamz circular needles that I had. I had forgotten they had a nylon connecting cord. I had also forgotten how dealing with a sproing-y nylon cable, especially one of any size (47 inches), was like wrestling a python. I bit the bullet and ordered some ChiaoGoo 13’s with a 60-inch cable. That should cover all the bases. In the first place, the ChiaoGoo’s are stainless steel, not wood, and are slicker; in the second place, their connecting cable is metal cable rope chain coated in plastic that has no memory whatsoever, unlike nylon, which has a memory like an elephant.
Anyway, since the shawl is on 13’s, it will go relatively fast. It’s been a while since I’ve knitted anything on needles this big, and it’s a real workout for my hand muscles. So far I can only go for about four or five rows before my hands get tired and start to hurt.
What else? Oh, remember these? This is the newly minted daughter of the assistant pastor at mom’s church (with her newly minted mom) wearing her knitted goodies (She’s wearing a different hat, though.). Is she as cute as the proverbial bug, or what?
This is a boy-meets-girl story. It began seventy three years ago. America was a very different place then. The country had just gone through the grueling ordeal of a world war. Boys who should have been setting about the tasks of becoming men and building lives for themselves had instead been sent off to distant places to spend four long years amid the death and horror and wreckage of war. They saw first hand the terrible cost of it, not just to the people who had the misfortune to live where it was being fought, but to their brothers in arms, and to themselves.
But now it was 1946. The war was over. The boys had come home and wanted more than anything to put the nightmare of war behind them and get back to normal as quickly as possible. They wanted wives, jobs, families, homes of their own, all the things they’d fought to protect during those long, terrible years. They wanted the happily-ever-afters they’d paid such a high cost for.
This particular boy was the fourth of five children who wanted to finish high school so much that he was willing to work 40 hours a week in the evenings so his family could afford to keep him in school. Even so, he still managed to graduate half a year ahead of his classmates. But after Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the Marines and went off to war in the Pacific, island hopping from Tarawa to Okinawa, and then, after the Japanese surrender, to mainland China in what was an (eventually futile) attempt to help Chiang Kai-shek. What had brought him home was not the end of the war, but the death of his father and a humanitarian reassignment to recruiting duty in his home state where he could be closer to his newly-widowed mother. He was on a weekend pass to see his family. His sister and her husband, and he and a girl he knew from high school were going to go out dancing, but he’d brought a friend along who was not from the area and didn’t know any girls there to ask out, so his sister fixed his friend up with this cute secretary who worked for another business in the same building as the dentist office where she worked.
The girl was the last of twelve children born on a farm to a mother who, as the saying goes, had had a tough row of her own to hoe, and who had taught her youngest child two of life’s most important lessons: that if something is worth having, it’s worth working for; and if you want something, don’t wait for somebody to get it for you, go get it for yourself. She wanted more for herself than to be a farmer’s wife and saw education as the way to get it. She worked hard in school and graduated at the top of her high school class. Then she went to business school to learn the skills she would need to get a job in the city, working in an office. It was her ticket to the world. She got a job, did well, got a better job. The money she made gave her the independence to buy for herself the things she wanted — her own space to live in, nice clothes, opportunities to travel and see other places. Then, one day, her friend who worked in the dentist’s office up the hall told her that her brother and his friend were in town. She and her husband wanted to go out dancing with them but the friend didn’t have a date. Would she like to go with them?
The boy had asked his high school friend to go dancing because she was somebody he knew well enough to ask out, but that friend of his sister’s was really something.
The girl didn’t much care for the brother’s friend, but the brother was not only good looking, but very nice — but wasn’t he dating that girl he was with? No, actually, he wasn’t.
Their happily ever after began on November 16, 1946, and lasted for 67 years, 10 months, and 6 days. On September 22, 2014, he quietly went on ahead, to be there to welcome her when she comes to join him.
Today would have been my dad’s 97th birthday. This is my favorite picture of him. It once belonged to his parents, and his mother gave it to me because she knew I’d take care of it. He joined the Marines right out of high school and fought in the Pacific in WWII. He and my mom were married for 67 years until death did them part on 22 September, 2014. I got my sense of humor, and my love of reading, language and music from him. They say, “Once a Marine, always a Marine.” Yeah. “Semper fidelis” pretty much sums him up. Its what mom and I had put on his grave marker. Hard to believe it’s been five years since this day changed from a happy birthday to a day of remembrance.
My poor mom. She’ll be 95 this year. She’s still as full of beans as ever, active, alert and, thankfully, still in possession of a full set of marbles, but she likes things just the way they are. For a long time, they had Dish TV, and AT&T internet and land line, each on a separate account, and she was paying through the nose for it. My mom is what you might call dyed in the wool frugal. For a long time, her frugality at having to pay so much warred with her dislike of change. She was particularly unhappy with the satellite service, which lost the signal whenever it rained or the wind kicked up. It was an epic struggle but finally last week, frugality won and she decided to switch everything over to AT&T(DirecTV) and bundle it. The guy came out at 11 a.m. Tuesday morning and didn’t leave until 7 p.m. that night. He was back and forth to the alley, he was up in the attic, he was was in and out to his truck. Somehow in the shuffle, AT&T tried to give her a new telephone number. Ooooh. Bad move. The phrase “madder than a wet hen” comes to mind. . . as does the expression, “fit to be tied.” Add to that her being told that the situation could not be sorted out until Monday, and you have one very unhappy camper.
Allow me to digress: Once upon a time, having a telephone meant you had to have an actual wire going from a telephone pole to your house, and you had to attach your phone to that wire or it wouldn’t work. If you moved, you had to get a new phone number, because the phone number wasn’t yours, it was the wire’s. When our family moved to a new house in 1960, we got a new phone number, which was going to be our phone number as long as we lived in that house. Then, for some unfathomable telephone-company reason, in 1975, she and my dad (who were still living in that house) had to get a new telephone number — as I discovered when I attempted to call home. I was living in Germany at the time, and she had written me a letter giving me the new number, but I hadn’t had a chance to get it yet. It was quite disconcerting to be expecting to hear one of your parents’ voices answer the phone, only to hear some telephone lady tell you that your parents’ telephone number was no longer in service!
She’s still living in that same house, and that “new” phone number has been her number for 44 years now! — until AT&T tried to pull a fast one on her yesterday.
I was blissfully unaware of all this sturm und drang until about 8:30 last night when I got a phone call. The caller ID had my mom’s first and last name on it, which was odd, and it was not my mom’s time-tested phone number either, which was odder still. But the voice on the line was definitely hers. She had called to alert me to the fact that AT&T had played fast and loose with her telephone number and to vent her extreme displeasure that they weren’t going to be getting around to fixing the situation until Monday.
My mom has a large circle of friends-and-relations, all of whom have that phone number, and my mom is at the age when if people call her number and it rings and rings and rings and rings, the next thing they do is call me (if they’re a relative) or call the lady across the street from her. She had called her dear friend CK and left a phone message with the temporary number, because she thinks in terms of writing things down. However, the minute I got off the phone, I texted CK (and my brother) to clue her knowing that having that number in a text on her phone made it easy for CK to keep up with it, and that one has simply to tap a phone number in a text message to call that number.
At least this will give me a good story to tell my friend LB, who is still in the hospital, and will probably be there for a while. Tomorrow is my last day of physical therapy, and afterward, I’ll be going up to the hospital to see her. Anything I can do to lift her spirits will be all to the good.
A load of wash in the washer and one room left to clean. That will be ticked off the list by tonight. Tomorrow afternoon: Bed linens (including spread) go through the laundry and right back on the bed. Garbage gets take out. Dishwasher gets run and emptied.
My mom has a tub seat left over from caring for my dad which she’s lent me — unfortunately, the seat back was on the wrong side as her tub has the water spout on the right end and mine has it on the left end. I thought I was going to have to get out my Act of Congress to get the seat back loose so I could put it on the other side, but fortunately, an invocation of Sir Isaac Newton involving a hammer and a screwdriver, plus a judicious application of some welly, and Bob’s your uncle. So that’s done.
I got one of those hose attachments that fits over the tub spout and has a shower wand on the other end (and a hose clamp!) and I’ve got it installed. I was going to order one on-line, but I couldn’t get it shipped to arrive before next week. Further research revealed that Home Depot had three in stock in their store which was on the way to me getting the tub bench from my mom.
A word to the wise here. If you go shopping for something on line and it says they’ve got it in stock in a store near you, print out their webpage (or find it and bookmark it on your phone) where it shows the thing, including those all-important SKU numbers and take it with you when you go to the store to get it. I didn’t. I had to explain what I was looking for to three different clerks and the customer service rep, all of whom were clueless. After a fruitless search on their in-store computer inventory and a call to their help desk, we did finally find it on line; it said they had three, but there were none on the display. (I will admit to having a John Cleese moment. . .) They finally found them in a box in the overhead rack above the display, but only because they had that SKU number.
There’s a reason I’m getting my left knee replaced and it has everything to do with really not wanting to hike all over Home Depot looking for this thing I’ve got to get because my shower stall is the size of a shoe box and there’s not enough room in it for me and a shower stool both. The guy did give me a $5 discount for my trouble, though, which I did not look in the mouth. (The thing was only $9.95 to start with, plus whatever the hose clamp cost, but every little bit helps.)
I’ve got to finish off that last little bit of housework now. I have to do it piecemeal. Straighten and pick up, go sit down and take the weight off my knee. Dust, go sit down and take the weight off my knee. Vacuum, go sit down and take the weight off my knee. Clean the en suite, go sit down and take the weight off my knee. Then I get to sit down and pay bills. Oh, what fun.
I still don’t know when I need to be at the hospital. If they don’t call me by tomorrow morning, I have to call them and find out. Hopefully it won’t be at the crack of dawn. . . .
My mom turned 94 this year. She not only still has all her marbles,she has more of them than I do! She’s active and alert, is in remarkably good health (touch wood!) and is in better shape than a lot of people 30 years younger than she. (For that, we are all extremely thankful!) She was born in 1924 and the mind boggles at the changes that have happened in the world during her lifetime. However, and not surprisingly, technology has gone off and left her in the dust, and there are times when trying to help her remain connected to the modern world is like being in the movie “Back to the Future.” Case in point:
We have finally converted my dyed-in-the-wool, write-checks-for-everything Mom to the ease and convenience of credit cards with bonus points (she got one through her bank after my dad died, because their only credit card was in his name, and that was the only way she could get one in her name). Now she charges practically everything on it, writes one check to pay the credit card bill in full every month (she could pay it on line, but we won’t go there!), redeems her bonus points for gift cards to local restaurants and she is a happy camper. So, this afternoon, she calls me and says that “since Charles changed her email program to Windows 7” (momspeak to English translation: Windows Live Mail decided to stop playing nice with everything else and Charles, her computer guy, took it off and loaded Mozilla Thunderbird in its place), when she tries to check her credit card bonus points on her bank’s website, she can’t because it wants her to upgrade her browser before it will let her. So I went over to get to the bottom of it and see if I could get things sorted out.
Upgrading the browser had no effect and I ended up having to call her bank’s help desk. Turned out the program her bank uses to track bonus points doesn’t like Firefox and insists you use either Google Chrome or Internet Explorer to access it. She uses Firefox for everything else and it works just fine. Now she has to load a separate browser to look at this one website so she can check her credit card points, which is stupid, but that’s the internet for you. (The poor schlimazel at the help desk had no clue why this was even a big deal.) Naturally, I had to walk her through how you do that so she could write down all the steps (What Internet Explorer calls a “favorite” is really a bookmark, mom. No, I don’t know why they have to call it something different.)
When I used the phone on her computer desk to call about the credit card website, the sound quality (the phone is 15 years old, if it’s a day) was so horrible I could barely understand the guy I talked to (and I have normal hearing). (You want surreal? I was trying to interpret between a millennial who I could barely understand on the phone and my mom, who is literally 4 years older than sliced bread.) When she gets a phone call when she’s sitting at her computer desk, sitting right next to this phone, she gets up and goes into another room to another phone to answer it because the sound quality on this phone is so horrible (and she’s so hearing impaired), she can’t understand what people are saying. Why doesn’t she get a new phone? Because this phone is hooked up to a caller ID box from the 1980’s that she knows how to operate (so she can see who called her and didn’t leave a message!), and she’s afraid that the new phone won’t work with this caller ID box. Never mind that her cordless phone handsets have a caller ID function which she (a) didn’t know they had, and when I showed it to her, (b) she thinks is too complicated and/or too much trouble to use.
I don’t know why this surprises me. There are only two modern phone jacks in the whole house. The rest of them are all still the original phone jacks from when her house was built in 1962, the kind that require a phone cord with prongs. I’m assuming the “new” one in the computer room had to have been put in by the AT&T guy so he could install their DSL when they first got a computer in the 1990’s, and the one in the kitchen was probably put in by another AT&T guy when prongs became obsolete and that phone quit working. If it wasn’t for the cordless phone system I got her (the base unit is plugged into the kitchen jack, with handsets by her chair in the den and in her bedroom) (which don’t have to be plugged into a phone jack that is too expensive/too much trouble to update), she would only have one usable phone in the whole house.
Anyway, I found her a corded phone on Amazon with a caller ID function with a large display that only requires one button press to access, and has a volume control on the handset, so hopefully now she won’t have to get up to go into another room to answer the phone instead of using the one sitting right next to her. (I bet I can get it to work with her old caller ID box, too.)
While I was sorting all this out, she started complaining about not being able to hear her doorbell. It’s one of those wireless gizmos that some friend from church installed for her when her other one quit working. It only has one wall unit, and she has it plugged in a plug/point in the den. When she’s in the den, she can barely hear it. When she’s anywhere else in the house, she can’t hear it at all. To make her case, while I was working on her computer, she went out and plonged it, and even I could barely hear it. The plug-in unit doesn’t seem to have a volume control on it. So I went on Amazon and found her one with three wall units so she can plug one in the den, one in the computer room and one in her bedroom. It also has four volume settings and, hopefully, one of them is “dull roar” so we can set it where she can hear it. All this tech is due to arrive next Friday, at which point I get to go install it all and show her how to use it. Stay tuned.
Her broker, who she has probably had longer than she’s had that phone, gave her a 10-pound ham for Xmas. She lives alone, so most of it went into the freezer. Guess what happened to another big slab of it. (My cardiologist says I’m not supposed to eat ham. Too much salt and nitrates. Let’s don’t tell him. )
The lovely little piece to the right is “The Madonna of the Yarnwinder” — It’s called that because “The Madonna of the Niddy Noddy” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. That little dohicky the Christ Child is holding is called a niddy noddy. They’re used by people who spin yarn to wind their yarn into skeins, and measure the length of yarn in the skein, typically 80 yards. It’s a very low-tech little gizmo — I’ve seen them made from PVC pipe. The high-tech version is called a “spinner’s weasel” — The wheel is 2 yards in circumference, and 40 turns of the wheel equals an 80 yard skein. Where the “tech” comes in is that some of them have a little clockwork mechanism with gears that turn a counter which will then make a clicking or popping noise when the wheel has turned 40 times. — Yep. You got it. Pop goes the weasel.
In the knitting news, I’ve already finished a Simple Pleasures Hat with a ribbed brim out of the donated Dazzle yarn. Instead of just joining on a different color and carrying on knitting to make the stripes, I used a mosaic knitting technique of k1, sl1 (knit one, slip one). If you pay attention to whether you k1 or sl1 as the first stitch when you start the stripe, and do the opposite when you join the background color after finishing the stripe, you get this zig-zag effect which I quite like. I got almost 2 skeins of the pale orange, two skeins of the dark brown, and a skein plus a little golf ball size ball of the dark orange, as well as a skein of dark blue and four or five skeins of white as my cut of the donated yarn. I don’t think I’ll be using the white for hats. Maybe I’ll make another baby afghan for KC’s church group.
I’ve started another Simple Pleasures hat out of the dark brown and need to get the brim hemmed before I go to bed. We’re having the eclipse tomorrow and I’m going to my mom’s to watch the important bits of it, and I can sit and knit while we visit. Tomorrow would have been my dad’s 95th birthday. Today when I shopped groceries, I got a big piece of carrot cake which i’ll bring to split with my mom.
I’m pretty put out with Napster/Rhapsody. You can’t download music to your PC or to an MP3 player any more. They say it’s because Microsoft removed the support for WMDRM tracks and offline playback. I can still stream to my PC and to my Kindle and tablet. I may need to check my internet radios to see if I can still use the Napster app on them.
I thought my $150 plus electric bill was higher than giraffe’s ears last month. Guess what. It was even higher this month. Almost $170. The thermostat is going back up to 80 F (16.6 C) and I’ll just sit around in my unmentionables with fans on. I’ve been in these digs a year now. I might can check with the electric company to see if I can go on average billing. (They total your usage for the past year and divide it by 11, and you pay that amount January through November. In December, you make up the difference.) I gotta do something. It’s shooting my book budget in the foot.
I’m not usually one for bad dreams — weird, interminable, sometimes surprisingly well-plotted dreams, yes, but only very, very rarely are they frightening or unpleasant ones. Typically, my dreams have surprisingly little emotional content. But last night I had a couple of whoppers. First off, at about 2 a.m., I dreamed that my mother dragged herself into my real-life bedroom, over to my real-life bedside, threw her arm across my thighs and croaked, “Call an ambulance.” I came bolt awake out of that one, my heart pounding. (I might point out, my mother does not live with me. She lives in her house, I live in my little duplex, and that is a mutually satisfactory arrangement.) I was royally spooked by that brief broadside of a dream for a good little bit. I had to get up and move about, which is always good for shredding the whisps of most dreams that persist into waking. I had a potty break, then went into the kitchen and had a couple of pieces of Twizzlers Bites to give me the energy to get back to sleep, which usually works.
I finally did get back to sleep, then I dreamed about my dad (who passed in September of 2014). He was still of an age when he was active and independent and could see and hear well, but he was having an episode of delirium and I was having to deal with him myself. I was at their house (although it didn’t look anything like their house actually does). He somehow got outside and I located my mom and we were trying to decide whether to go look for him ourselves or call the police, or what — my dad was over six feet tall, and if he decided to struggle, even my mom and I together could not have handled him. As we were talking, someone knocked at the door and it was my dad. He had gotten a lift home in a UPS truck. I remember thinking in the dream that my dad had been delivered by UPS and how ironically funny it was. Tied loosely about him was one of those heavy cloth strips like moving companies use to secure furniture by strapping it to the side of the vans. Then a “friend” came over. You know how you know things in dreams; I knew he was an old family friend although he didn’t look like anybody I knew that we knew. He and my dad were conversing, and then my dad started playing the bagpipe for him (yeah, I know). I was sad because although his playing was good, it was not as good as it once had been. Then I woke up.
After that, even though it was only about 5:20 a.m., I didn’t even bother to try to go back to sleep. I read for a while, then I decided I might just as well get up. Thankfully, the passage of time is dulling the memory of those dreams, especially the first one, which was a real shovel-smack upside the head.
Now I’ve got to get ready to go out. My cousin JP is driving over from New Mexico to take my mother and me out to lunch. Then he will drive back to New Mexico. He does this from time to time, as he only lives about a 4-1/2 hour drive away — which is really quite near in this part of the world — to touch base with his Aunt Fluffy (my mom). My mom was his mom’s baby sister, and his parents gave my mom a real leg up in her rise from her rural roots to venture out into the wide world and begin her career. She is my namesake aunt, the only one of her children to be named for anyone on either side of the family. (That right there tells you how large my aunt loomed in her legend.)
Plus, we’ve got three important anniversaries coming up, what would have been my dad’s 95th birthday on 21st August (the same day as the solar eclipse, no less), the third anniversary of his passing on 22nd September, and my mom’s 93rd birthday on 23rd September. (Yes, my mom spent her 90th birthday making funeral arrangements for the love of her life.) And I’m sure part of my cousin’s visit is to lend moral support to my mom going into this gauntlet of significant dates.
In the knitting news, I finished two more hats. This one at right, which I’m calling “Simple Pleasures Hat” and the one below, which I’m calling “Fabled Cable Hat.” I’m not completely satisfied with either pattern so I haven’t posted them to my knitting pattern website.
The Fabled Cable Hat has braided cables, which don’t show up on the picture very well. This one was done in Lion Brand Landscapes yarn, colorway “Desert Spring.” The “Landscapes” yarn is Lion Brand’s answer to Red Heart’s Unforgettable yarns. Although they both say they are a medium:4 weight yarn, the Landscapes yarn is noticeably thicker. I think the colors are a little more garish, or some of them are. The Simple Pleasures Hat was done in the Unforgettable yarn, colorway “Parrot.” It is pretty bright, but I like the color mix. I think they’re cheerful. I’m not really wild about the Lion Brand colors, although they do have a solid fuchsia pink, which I’ve gotten two skeins of.
When starting a hat, I typically either use the provisional cast on, or the long-tail cast on, depending on whether the edge of the hat will be “hemmed” or not. Both methods start with a slip knot in the working yarn. When I join to knit in the round, I don’t drop my slip knot. I slip it off the right hand needle and onto the left hand needle, and then do a k2tog (knit two together) with the slip knot and what would be my first stitch of the row. I find this makes a more secure join.